Recorded: 03 Jul 2003
Alfred came through on a visit on his way or in preparation for a sabbatical with Herschel in Caltech. He came and told me what he wanted to do when he was in Caltech was to develop a cell free protein synthesis system for Drosophila. I told him what we were doing. I showed him my results. I came here for [the] ’73 symposium, I can’t remember now, on [Chromosome Structure and Function]—I remember I was in Blackford and Alfred said, “Well, I’ve got something to show you.” And he opened his briefcase and brought out an autoradiograph showing the induction of these proteins by heat shock. He’d actually taken over the project and used much better technology, which I didn’t know about using: slab gels. It was crazy that I didn’t know about it because that technology was developed in Cambridge by Bill Studiae who is actually, at Stony Brook. So I flew a film back to Cambridge which is quite something to do at that time. By the time we got back Mike Lewis had built the operators and we repeated the experiment. But I’m slightly annoyed that they beat us to that.
I’ve never really forgiven Alfred for doing that. We get on perfectly well. I’ve never said anything to him. When this film is looked at in fifty years’ time, his recollection will certainly be different. It always is.
Michael Ashburner, a leader in Drosophila Genetics and bioinformatics, received his B.A. (1964), M.A. (1968), Ph.D. (1968) and Sc.D. (1978) from the University of Cambridge, where he is currently professor of Biology in the Department of Genetics and a Professional Fellow of Churchill College.
He has been the joint head of European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and was co-founder of Flybase, the primary online database for Drosophila genetics and molecular biology, the Gene Ontology Consortium, an effort to coordinate biological databases through a defined taxonomy of gene function, and the Crete Meetings, a bi-annual event focusing on the developmental and molecular biology of Drosophila melanogaster.
Among many honors, he is the recipient of the G.J. Mendel Medal (Czech Republic 1998) and the George W. Beadle Medal (Genetics Society of America 1999).